Going through a Shikamaru x Ino phase right now. I truly believe in this couple because of the time that they've spent together (From the Academy-present), the understanding that they have for each other (despite the nagging and bickering) and the teamwork that they show (of course with Choji and Asuma as well).

The quote in the end is from Shikamaru's father, Shikaku.

Night had gradually begun, and the noises of crushing gravel echoed through their ears, their feet dragged towards an endless labyrinth of trees and shrubs. The woodland was silent, and although it was more reason for them to keep their guard up, they were much too fatigued to even care anymore.

"Man, I can't believe we're stuck. What is this place, a maze?" the chuunin, once and still branded the laziest ninja in their village, felt his aching shoulder, massaging the nape of his neck. Team Asuma remained Team 10 even after their leader's death, they swore to it. And despite working much better after Asuma's passing, in an attempt - that proved to be much successful - to make their leader proud while he's up there watching them, they still have room for improvement. Ino exhaled, her long golden blonde hair swinging from side to side as her shoulders drooped in weariness. Their other teammate continued to walk, dipping his free hand into the bag of chips that he saved along with the other 8 bags in his backpack. They were accompanied by the sole heir of the former 4th Hokage, Naruto Uzumaki, who wiped his face with his hand, weary from what seemed to be a never-ending adventure in the woods.

"Hey guys!" Choji's index finger suddenly aimed at the opening in front of him, a small light that appeared from the outside, and for once since their journey, the 4 of them grinned. They ran towards the light, and inhaled fresh air when their eyes darted at the setting sun. Naruto stretched his arms out and ruffled his hair. The long blades of grass prickled Ino's legs as she scratched her ankle until a red patch was visibly seen from her pale skin.

They walked into a town that wasn't too far ahead, appreciating the hospitality of local villagers and the good food by sellers. While Choji and Naruto grabbed some sweets, and Shikamaru lighting up a cigarette by an alley, Ino strode inside an inn, smiling at the display of cosmos grown in the front of the building.

"Hey," she wriggled her nose at the smell of his cigar breath, reminiscent of Asuma. Shikamaru had stepped inside, the other two following. They were welcomed by a pretty young woman, who blushed when she saw Shikamaru.

"We have two rooms available left, I'm sorry," the girl apologetically handed Ino some pamphlets, observing the team carefully, her eyes nervously wandering in fear that they might hurt her.

"She's probably never seen ninjas before," the thought ran across Ino's head, and just before she was about to depart and say her thanks, Shikamaru's slapped a bill on the desk, sliding it over to the girl.

"We'll take it,"

"Shikamaru!" Ino scowled at him as she tugged on his jacket. He rolled his eyes and dug his hand in his pockets.

"Look, Ino, we're all tired and we need some sleep. 2 rooms are good enough," he answered, his gaze at the clock diagonally in front of him, a simple wall clock that appears to have been pasted on that same spot for years. It worked well though. 9 pm.

Ino looked at him, and fixed her attention to the two other boys behind her, their eyes heavy. They were all worn-out, and she couldn't ask for anything more. The 4 of them had sacrificed enough, and frankly, even she was too tired to look for other places to sleep. Besides, the inn was clean and very pretty.

Exhaling, she looked at her teammate, her lackadaisical expression made him smirk, but she trusted him. She always did, despite the arguments, the punches, the nags and the annoying voice that always rang in his ears, Ino continuously showed that she confided in Shikamaru.

"Alright then."

They were left standing in front of both rooms, gawking at the doors. Naruto grabbed Choji's key and aggressively inserted it in the matching hole of the shiny knob.

"Hey, Naruto! Which one of us is going to stay with you?"

"Hmm," the blonde kid spun around and ogled his eye at Ino, carefully looking at her that troubled her. His eyes transferred to Shikamaru's direction, bobbing his head before turning to Choji. His grin frightened them, then again, it always did.

"I pick…CHOJI!" Shikamaru sighed, and Ino moaned in disbelief.

"Hey guys. Look at it this way. If I sleep with Ino, she'd kill me. If I stay with Shikamaru, he won't be able to stand my farting when I'm asleep. I can only go for Choji. We get along well, we're both heavy sleepers and we both fart in our sleep! You two on the other hand" his index finger stuck out to point at them along with a sly smirk, chuckling mischievously at them.

And so Ino slugged her shoulders and inserted the key to open the door.

Their room was big, set as a traditional Japanese inn, and 2 yukatas were folded neatly on their tatami bed. Ino strolled over to the sliding door as Shikamaru dropped his bag and checked the other rooms.

"Ino, they actually have private bathrooms here." Her head turned in response to his call, a smile shone from her face.

"Really?" she walked over to see a bathroom sparkle from cleanliness and rested her hands on her waists.

"Glad we chose this one," she chortled to herself, glancing over at her teammate who emptied his backpack of his clothes.

"Hey, I'm going to change," he raised his head to see her disappearing into the washroom, stretching her arms out with her night clothes hung from her shoulders. He smirked to himself as he unzipped his flak jacket, unclothing himself from his long sleeved shirt. He pulled out his gray shirt, and suddenly smiled to himself because he remembered his time of playing shogi with his sensei.

She tied her hair in a bun as she stepped out of the room, her entire body covered by an oversized t-shirt, her legs, however, completely bare. He couldn't help but gape at her figure; he knew Ino was beautiful; the thought was just always shrouded because of her badgering personality.

"When are you going to quit that?" she nagged again, directing her fingers at the small box of cigarettes that unfortunately slipped out from his bag. Her brows furrowed, it was enough that she hated her sensei's smoking habits, how much more her very own squad member doing the same thing?

In response to her annoyance at his smoking, he hated the nagging. No surprise, despite their passive natures, Nara men hated the lectures, the pestering, the constant ringing of women's voices in their ears, and the bla bla blas.

He only sighed; here it was again, her battering at him. This must be what it's like for his father to be married to his mother every day.

"Ino, let's just go to sleep, alright? I don't need you starting with me about this," scratching his head, he walked over to the tatami bed, and shut the lights off, leaving a small night light that set a dim atmosphere in the room. It was bright enough for Ino to see where the bed was, and that Shikamaru had already rested himself on the bed, a pillow between his legs.

She rolled her eyes and followed, slipping herself into the bed beside him.

He woke up from the budding light of their room, the loud singing of birds as if yelling at him to open his eyes. More importantly, he woke up to a comfortable arm wrapped around his waist while he slept, a head resting on his arm that apparently had spread to provide her another pillow. Shikamaru watched Ino asleep, the blanket protecting her body as he slept through the night a little cold. But that's okay, this was Ino. He wouldn't want her to go ape shit at him for 'hogging' the entire blanket; besides, watching her snuggle herself into a ball of fabric looked cute. He smiled to himself, and lightly tapped Ino's shoulders rhythmically. Tap, tap tap, tap, tap tap, tap, tap tap.

His light fingers tickled her arm, and she slowly opened her eyes, her head adjusting to a more comfortable position on his chest. She clutched his shirt tighter, and exhaled satisfyingly – only to fully awaken and found him playing with her blonde strands.

Ino gulped, the beat of her heart pounding from excitement and nerve. The entire night she had slept like that, securely protected by the blanket and her teammate. She was ready to kill him.

"Ino…" her eyes widened as he began. Whatever reasons, he was getting it, a punch that will land him to the other side of this town, no, all the way home to Konoha.

''Did you always smell this good?'' his statement made her laugh, and she rose up to face him, one of her brows raised. He chuckled casually, and rested his hands underneath his head, closing his eyes in an effort to go back to sleep.

"Shikamaru!" she slapped his arm, but his eyes were still shut. She anticipated something to happen, then again this was Shikamaru.

"Shikamaru!" she bit her bottom lip to smack his arm again. Nothing.

Her head turned to face the door when suddenly he sprang from the bed and grabbed her waist, pulling her down with him.

"Shikamaru, let go of me!" she fell on top of him, laughing as he growled and secured the gap between them. They laughed as Shikamaru poked her waists, tickling her.

"Stop! Stop!" she laughed, wrinkling his shirt from her grasp.

They were left staring at each other, her face inches away from his as she gazed at his narrow brown eyes. His hand reached out to her face, around her neck and he pulled her close to him, their lips touching. She tilted her head to kiss him as she lied on top of him, his arms snaked around her waist.

The morning light had beamed in their room; the daylight welcomed them to spend the day outside and the birds chirped to bid them hello.

She snuggled beside him as he yawned for the umpteenth time. His fingers lightly tapped her shoulders rhythmically. Tap, tap tap, tap, tap tap, tap, tap tap.

He closed his eyes shut for another slumber.

"No matter how strong-minded a woman is, she will show kindness to the man she loves."